December 03, 2010

India denies Musharraf a visa

New Delhi, Dec 1: India has refused to give a visa to former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf to attend a function in Delhi as it was "not convinced" of the reason for the visit, sources said Wednesday. Musharraf had last week accused India of fomenting trouble in Pakistan's Balochistan province.


According to external affairs ministry sources, Musharraf had applied for visa at the Indian High Commission in London to visit here at the invitation of the India chapter of an international group, Young Presidents' Association.

Official sources said that India did not sanction the visa as it was "not convinced" of the reason for the visit. They said the decision was taken by the home ministry.

The former military dictator has been based in London since being forced to step down after the 2008 Pakistani general elections.

Musharraf has been tying to make a comeback into Pakistani politics by essentially harnessing social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. He had even launched his own political party, All Pakistan Muslim League, in June.

On Nov 26, Musharraf had told a Pakistani television channel that he had "solid evidence" of India and Afghanistan creating unrest in Balochistan.

He alleged that tribal leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti's grandson, Bramdagh Bugti, is received by agents from the Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) whenever he visits India.

"I know that they finance him, they give him weapons to create trouble and stab us in the back in Balochistan."

Officials said that this statement had been one of the reasons for the denial of visa.

Besides, India had got alarmed when some supporters of Musharraf had also applied for a visa to travel alongwith him, which seemed to be now more than just an invitation to deliver a speech.
--IANS

Dislodging the legitimate ‘dictators’

Kishore Mahbubani
Fri Dec 03 2010, 04:08 hrs
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/dislodging-the-legitimate-dictators/719733/0

President Obama brought many gifts to India. The biggest gift he brought was a clear signal that US-India relations have entered a positive new terrain. Many of the suspicions that had continued to persist as a relic of the Cold War differences between India and America have gone. A new era has certainly emerged in Indo-American relations.

One symbolic indication of this new era was provided by President Obama’s categorical support for India’s admission as a new permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). There can be no doubt that Obama was completely sincere in expressing this support. Despite this, the big question remains whether this strong support brings India any closer to joining the UNSC as a permanent member.



It is vital to remember here that the question of UNSC reform and expansion has been discussed by the UN for almost two decades. In 1992, the UN set up the “Open-ended Working Group on UNSC Reform”. Some wag has wisely suggested that the name of the group be changed from “open-ended” to “never-ending”, which would be a more accurate description of its performance.





So what is holding up UNSC reform? The simple answer is that there is a natural gridlock in place. For every country that wants to join, there is a neighbour or rival that feels uncomfortable. Hence, for a Brazil that wants to join, Argentina is uncomfortable. For a Japan that wants to join, China and South Korea feel uncomfortable. Despite the apparent closeness of the European Union member states, many EU states do not welcome Germany’s candidature as a permanent member. When I served as Singapore’s ambassador to the UN, my Italian counterpart used to quip, “Why should only Germany and Japan join? Italy also lost World War II.”




The resistance to change, however, does not come from neighbouring states only. Among the larger membership of the UN, there are also deep qualms about adding more permanent members with a veto. Why is this so? The simple answer is that the five permanent members (or P-5, as they are commonly referred to) have abused their veto powers. In theory, they are meant to use their privileged status to “maintain or restore international peace and security”. In practice, they have used their veto powers to protect their national interests, not the interests of the international community.




To make matters worse, the P-5 have refused to accept any kind of democratic accountability or transparency for their performance as permanent members. Even though the charter says explicitly that the UNSC is obliged to submit a report to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) (where all 192 UN members are represented), the P-5 refuse to accept any kind of explicit or implicit accountability to the 192 members. Indeed, many P-5 members actually believe (secretly) that far from the UNSC being accountable to the UNGA, the UNSC is actually superior to the UNGA. The UNSC is in one way more powerful than the UNGA because it can make decisions that are mandatory for all 192 members. Hence, when the UNSC imposes sanctions on Iran, all states have to comply.




What happens when a person or an organisation is given absolute powers without any balancing accountability for these powers? The simple answer is that the person begins to behave like a “dictator”. Indeed, in some ways, the P-5 are the only legitimate “dictators” left in the world. And, as dictators, they do not want to see any dilution of their powers.




Ironically, even though the US is the world’s most powerful democracy domestically, it does not accept the principle of democratic accountability for its international performance. Instead, like any other great power, it does not wish to accept any constraints on its behaviour. This is another reason why the US is not keen to see any real reform in the UNSC. Many years ago, I had a private meeting with a senior US diplomat. I asked him for the bottom-line of the US position on UNSC reform. He replied candidly, “15 members already give us tremendous problems when we try to secure a consensus. A larger number is not in America’s interests.” I wasn’t the first to learn this American bottom-line position. My Pakistani colleague had told me the same point earlier. This is why he was confident that no UNSC reform would happen soon. To be fair, the US is not the only P-5 member which is reluctant to expand the UNSC. In a US diplomatic cable which was leaked this week, an unidentified Chinese official was quoted as saying that China wanted the United States to maintain its position on UNSC reform and not be “proactive” on the matter. “The P-5 should not be diluted. If we end up with a ‘P-10’, both China and the United States would be in trouble,” he told the American ambassador.


All this therefore creates a painful conundrum for India. There can now be no doubt whatsoever that India deserves a permanent seat in the UNSC. Indeed, a UNSC without India as a permanent member will clearly be seen to be illegitimate. Yet, to secure the support of the 186 other non-permanent members of the UNSC, a plan must be put forward that makes the UNSC more transparent and accountable. Any such plan would be explicitly or implicitly opposed by the current P-5. In short, any exercise to reform the UNSC is enormously difficult. Success would require the wisdom of a Solomon. Or maybe an Obama.






The writer is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and the author of ‘The New Asian Hemisphere’ canasiansthink@expressindia.com

Steve Solarz, A true friend of India


Source: REDIFF
Last updated on: January 27, 2005 23:02 IST
T P Sreenivasan, among India's [ Images ] most distinguished diplomats, continues his column based on his encounters with some of the world's most famous people.


"Why didn't the Indians integrate with the local communities?"

"What was the nature of the guarantees the British gave Indians when they came here?"

"What did the Government of India do to prevent discrimination against Indians?"

"Would the Indians rise in armed revolt if discrimination persists?"


The questions came at me like machinegun fire and I had to answer them swiftly and briefly. The next question followed in the same fashion and I had just enough time to catch my breath. The young Congressman had his eyes riveted on me and he appeared impressed with my answers, but he did not respond to them. He continued with his questions.

The year was 1987 and the venue was the residence of the US ambassador to Fiji, Edward Dillery. US Congressman Steve Solarz had come to Fiji to study the plight of Indians there soon after the military coup by Sitiveni (Steve) Rabuka. Solarz had specially asked to meet the Indian ambassador and, therefore, Dillery had invited me to lunch with the Congressman. I was exhausted by the time he finished the questioning and reached out for a strong gin and tonic as I studied the man.

ALSO READ: Ashwin Mahesh on The Home Coming

Solarz, in his mid-40s and with a handsome face and piercing eyes, was the very picture of an American intellectual. It was then my turn to question him, but I did so slowly and hesitatingly as he did not seem inclined to share his views with me. But soon he opened up and spoke his mind. He had digested everything I had said, compared my points with what he had already learnt and reinforced his conclusions. I urged him to influence US public opinion in favour of Fiji Indians, who knew no other country as theirs. India was a distant land for them. He reassured me that he would try his best; he had no hesitation in taking up the Fiji Indian cause.

I did not meet Solarz for the next 10 years. I knew he was India's best friend in the US Congress, that he had set up the India Caucus in the Congress, that he was instrumental in setting up a South Asia Bureau in the State Department, that he had got into trouble on account of some technical irregularities relating to his personal cheques and that he lost his Congressional constituency on account of a delimitation exercise.

Indian Americans were upset about his downfall and continued to give him support. Solarz became an unofficial lobbyist for India after he left Congress. He studied issues relating to India-US relations and spoke and wrote about them with conviction, clarity and persuasiveness. He gave the impression that he was for India, right or wrong, but he had cogent arguments to substantiate his points in favour of India.

President Clinton found in Solarz a reliable adviser on South Asia and by the time Clinton began his second term, Solarz and others had convinced him that a new policy towards South Asia, with India at its centre, was warranted. Another staunch supporter of India, Frank Pallone, became the head of the India Caucus. But Solarz continued to support the Caucus's efforts from outside. He also traveled to India several times to meet Indian leaders and to deepen his understanding of the country.

ALSO READ: Washington's fallible South Asia policy

I met Solarz socially in Washington a few times after I arrived in Washington in October 1997. But it was at a Congressional hearing in May 1998 that I first witnessed what Solarz could do for India. The Congressional hearing on India was planned several months before the nuclear tests of May 11 and 13, and was meant to highlight the positive elements in the new US-India relationship that Clinton ushered in. It was also planned as an occasion for Senator (Jesse) Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to speak positively about India after he had a change of heart about the country at the behest of Swadesh Chatterjee, an Indian-American activist from North Carolina.

But the hearing, which was held within days of our nuclear tests, was a catastrophe from India's point of view. The hearing which came about because of the embassy's efforts, turned into the worst tirade against India in US Congressional history. The testimonies of participants, which were meant to boost bilateral relations, turned into accusations of betrayal and deceit. Helms himself was at his anti-Indian worst and suggested that India would be a threat to the US itself in the days to come as it had a space capability. 'India has not just shot itself in the foot, but also in the head,' he thundered. At the end of the tirade, he suddenly remembered that he owed his Indian-American friends something and said some kind words about the contribution of Indians to the US. But that did not detract from the venom he spewed on India.

It was then the turn of Steve Solarz. He spoke of India's strengths as a democracy, of the long tradition of India-US relations and the new economic reforms which led to the opening of a huge market for US goods. He spelt out the contours of the Clinton policy towards India. As for the nuclear tests, he referred to India's threat perceptions, particularly its experience of Chinese aggression in 1962 and the continued occupation of Indian territory by China. While conceding that India had violated the non-proliferation regime, he sought an understanding of India's compulsions to guarantee its security. Solarz's testimony sounded like blasphemy for a majority of the audience, which was in a mood to condemn and castigate India. But it saved the day for India; there was at least one lone voice to support its position on that fateful day. Every word he spoke was worth its weight in gold for India.

Solarz became an official lobbyist for India soon thereafter, together with three other firms which were already working with the embassy. Solarz joined a lobbying firm to legitimise his role, but worked more or less alone to support India's case on the Hill and elsewhere. His main role was as a strategist who advised us on how to approach different Congressmen and senior officials. My weekly meetings with lobbyists came alive as Solarz gave new ideas and approaches, which were thoroughly discussed. Solarz himself spoke to a number of Democratic Congressmen and enlisted their support. He helped us draft Congressional letters and other documents with the skills of a seasoned Congressman.

Solarz worked hard on the idea of marshalling Indian-American resources to India's advantage on the same lines that Israel had worked on the Jews. But in the absence of a unified leadership and unity within the community, the plan did not work out. But his standing in the community and his general reputation as a friend of India helped advance our cause in Washington. He was not expected to be objective when it came to India, but his presentations were compelling and absorbing.

Solarz spoke warmly about me at Ambassador Naresh Chandra's farewell in Washington at the end of 2000. He said he had known that India's best diplomats were sent as Deputy Chiefs of Mission to Washington and that the post was "a one-way ticket to stardom." I had to add that the same was true of ambassadors to the United States.

Solarz is a politician whose talents have not been fully used by his own party and country. His intellectual abilities and people skills should have given him a unique position in the Democratic Party. He continues to be intellectually alive and active, but he is considered a spent political force. I saw him in India in the winter of 2003 on a plane to Udaipur. He was his own self again, firing questions at me with the same rapidity as he did in 1987. He appeared aged, but no less sharp and no less enthusiastic about India.

T P Sreenivasan was India's former ambassador to the United Nations, Vienna [ Images ], and former governor for India, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna

SIT's reported clean chit to Narendra Modi vindicates our stand: BJP

Published: Friday, Dec 3, 2010, 17:20 IST
Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI


BJP today said the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) reportedly giving a clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots cases vindicates the party's stand on the issue.

"This issue is in court. We are not aware of what the SIT has said, so we will not be able to make a detailed comment. But if such an outcome is there then it will be a truth which will vindicate our stand on the matter," leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and MP from Gujarat Arun Jaitley said.

BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said, "BJP has taken the stand to cooperate with law. People may have been conspiring against the BJP, but we believe in law."

The SIT has submitted its report to the apex court on allegations levelled by the wife of a former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, Zakiathat Modi and his close aides aided and abetted the post-Godhra carnage in which her husband was killed.

A newspaper report claimed that the SIT has said there was no proof of Modi's complicity in the violence that took place after the Godhra incident.

Mukul Rohtagi, counsel for the Gujarat government, said the state government has been maintaining for the last 10 years that Modi had no role to play in the riots.

"The riots were unfortunate but to allege that the CM was engineering them or was negligent... is a falsehood," he said.

CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said the SIT report was submitted to the apex court in a sealed cover and wanted to know how it was leaked to a newspaper.

The SIT had summoned Modi a few months ago and grilled him for a few hours on the issue.

The court had on April 27, 2009 asked the SIT to inquire into Zakia's complaint.

Zakia had alleged that Modi and 62 others, including his cabinet colleagues, police officials and senior bureaucrats aided and abetted the riots which left over 1,000 people dead. Her husband Ehsan Jaffery was killed along with 69 others by a mob at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad.

December 02, 2010

WIKILEAK: BALOCH REQUEST UNHCR FACILITATE MOVEMENT OF BRAHMDAGH BUGTI TO IRELAND

Friday, 18 December 2009, 11:04
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 003037
NOFORN
SIPDIS
EO 12958 DECL: 12/18/2034
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PREF, PK, AF
SUBJECT: BALOCH REQUEST UNHCR FACILITATE MOVEMENT OF
BRAHMDAGH BUGTI TO IRELAND
Classified By: Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, for reasons 1.4 (b)(d)

Summary
  1. A senior UN official approaches the US with a proposal to obtain asylum for Baloch nationalist leader Brahumdagh Bugti, who is wanted by Pakistan, in Ireland. The plan collapses after a meeting between the CIA station chief and the head of the ISI. Key sections highlighted in yellow.

  2. Read related article

1. (S/NF) Summary: XXXXXXXXXXXX, who has been designated by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres as XXXXXXXXXXXX in Pakistan, met with the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission on December 13 to discuss the U.S. Government's position on the possible movement of Baloch leader Brahmdagh Bugti from Afghanistan to a country of asylum. He requested U.S. intervention with Pakistani authorities if UNHCR agrees to facilitate this movement. XXXXXXXXXXXX Brahmdagh's uncle, reportedly told XXXXXXXXXXXX that the Government of Ireland has agreed to offer asylum to Bugti, although UNHCR has not yet confirmed this offer. At the request of UNHCR, the Ambassador agreed to engage President Zardari and have the Embassy follow up with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to ensure that the GOP would not act against such a transfer or negatively respond to UNHCR's potential involvement. In a subsequent conversation, however, DGI ISI Pasha registered to COS the Pakistan military's opposition to allowing Bugti to obtain refugee status. While getting Bugti out of Afghanistan is still a good idea, we do not believe UNHCR should be involved. End Summary.

2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX met recently with XXXXXXXXXXXX, who sought UNHCR support in facilitating the movement out of Afghanistan of Brahmdagh Bugti, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti's grandson and head of the Baloch Republican Party. XXXXXXXXXXXX reportedly told XXXXXXXXXXXX that the Government of Ireland was willing to receive Brahmdagh Bugti, who "had to get out of Afghanistan and would not be safe returning to Pakistan." XXXXXXXXXXXX also contended that the USG would be supportive of this transfer. (Note: XXXXXXXXXXXX has met with Embassy poloffs several times to float the idea of moving Bugti, sharing with us that Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister is willing to help Bugti gain asylum there. End Note.)

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX sought a meeting on December 13 with the Ambassador to discuss the USG position on the potential transfer of Bugti, although UNHCR has yet to verify Ireland's willingness to receive him or to make a determination as to whether Bugti is eligible for refugee status. The British Government has previously refused to consider asylum for Bugti. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, while UNHCR believes that moving Bugti from Afghanistan and from close proximity to and influence in Baloch insurgent activity in Pakistan would be in the Pakistani Government's interest, High Commissioner Guterres is concerned that UNHCR's potential involvement in this transfer could have a negative impact on UNHCR's humanitarian access, operations, and security in Pakistan. UNHCR is seeking assurances that the Pakistani Government will not act against such a transfer or penalize UNHCR's potential involvement in it. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador that his meeting with XXXXXXXXXXXX and all UNHCR's interaction with Baloch leaders have been carefully monitored by Pakistani intelligence.

4. (C) UNHCR will hold an in-house meeting to be attended by XXXXXXXXXXXX to discuss more generally what to do with regard to the Baloch in Afghanistan. Besides Bugti, there are "a few hundred" Baloch in Kandahar (largely from Dera Bugti), XXXXXXXXXXXX explained. He said that recognizing these Baloch as refugees would be well received by the Pakistani Baloch community - which believes UNHCR has been insufficiently supportive of them despite Baloch assistance in facilitating the release of kidnapped UNHCR Quetta Sub-Office Head John Solecki -- but would not be well-received by the Government of Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD 00003037 002 OF 002

5. (C) The Ambassador told XXXXXXXXXXXX that the USG would be supportive of moving Bugti out of the region but said that UNHCR would need to confirm first Ireland's willingness to grant him asylum. She and XXXXXXXXXXXX both expressed concern about the possible implications of XXXXXXXXXXXX's stipulation that Bugti would need to be able to freely travel outside his country of asylum. The Ambassador agreed to engage President Zardari and have the Embassy follow up with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to ensure that the GOP would not act against a transfer of Bugti out of Afghanistan or negatively respond to UNHCR's potential involvement.

6. (S/NF) In a subsequent conversation, DG ISI Pasha told COS that he believed Bugti should return to Pakistan to stand trial for his crimes. While declaring that the decision belonged ultimately to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he made clear that the Pakistan military would not favor allowing Bugti to be accorded refugee status. It was also clear from Pasha's comments that efforts on the part of UN agencies to effect Bugti being provided with asylum in Europe would color the Pakistan military's perception of those agencies and would affect their working relationships.

7. (S/NF) Comment: On the basis of Pasha's remarks, we are advising XXXXXXXXXXXX that it would be better for UNHCR not to pursue this initiative with Bugti. End Comment. PATTERSON



http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/240580


Barkha Dutt on the Allegations Against Her



As a journalist, whose work has been consistently hard-hitting and scathingly critical of the ongoing 2G scam and the former Telecom Minister, I am astonished, angered and hurt to see the baseless allegations against me in sections of the media this week.

While there is no doubt that journalists must be held to the same exacting standards of accountability that we seek from others, the allegations in this instance, as they relate to me, are entirely slanderous and not backed by a shred of evidence. The edited conversations between PR Representative Nira Radia and me have been headlined to suggest that I misused my role as a journalist to "lobby" for A. Raja, a man I have never met.

While this is completely untrue, I can understand the anger and anguish that such a misrepresentation can create, among viewers who rely on me to report honestly and impartially. And I would like to address some of the questions raised by these edited transcripts.

The tapes seem to add up to hundreds of hours of conversations between Nira Radia and people from different backgrounds, including scores of well-known journalists and editors from all the major media organisations (TV and Print) in India. Despite this, much of the commentary has been strangely selective in its focus. And quite often, vindictively personal. Consider, for example, that online it is being dubbed "BarkhaGate."

I cannot speak on behalf of any other journalist on the tapes. Framed in the backdrop of a larger media debate, every journalist's conversation on these tapes must, of course, be evaluated on its own merit. So, speaking only for myself, the insinuation made by the magazines are preposterous.

By definition, the insinuation of "lobbying" implies either a quid-pro-quo of some kind or a compromise in how I have reported the story. As anyone who has watched my coverage of the ongoing 2G scam over the past year would know - to suggest either is entirely absurd. (ATTACHED BELOW ARE LINKS TO SEVERAL SHOWS HOSTED BY ME ON THE 2G SCAM OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS). In several different statements, I have already challenged two newsmagazines who first carried the allegations to establish any proof of a quid-pro quo or a bias in reportage. I know that neither charge stands the test of any scrutiny.

For those perplexed by the ongoing debate, it could be useful to understand the context in which these conversations took place. The few, short conversations took place in the backdrop of cabinet formation in 2009, when the DMK had stormed out of the UPA coalition over portfolio allocation.

In this instance, Nira Radia, was clearly plugged into the inner workings of the DMK, a fact we only discovered when she rang up to tell me that the news flashes running on different news channels were incorrect; the stalemate between the DMK and the Congress had not yet been resolved. She corroborated her claim by saying she was in direct contact with the DMK chief and was in fact with his daughter, Kanimozhi. We talked about news developments within the DMK and the Congress and nothing I said was different from what I was reporting on TV minute-by-minute.

Ironically, the one sentence being used to damn me, "Oh God, What should I tell them", is in fact two separate sentences, neither of which are related to A Raja or the telecom portfolio at all. When transcripts are edited and capture neither tone nor context, the message is severely distorted. The phrase "Oh God," was nothing more than a response to a long account by Nira Radia on a DMK leader, TR Baalu, speaking to the media without sanction from the party. The excerpt, "What should I tell them," was in response to her repeatedly saying to me over several different phone calls, that if I happened to talk to anyone in the Congress, I should ask them to talk the DMK chief directly.

As a matter of record, I never passed on any message to any Congress leader. But because she was a useful news source, and the message seemed innocuous, I told her I would. Ultimately, I did no more than humour a source who was providing me information during a rapidly changing news story.

AT NO STAGE WAS I EVER ASKED TO PASS ON ANY MESSAGE TO INTERCEDE ON BEHALF OF A PARTICULAR MINISTER OR PORTFOLIO. NOT ONCE, WAS I ASKED TO "LOBBY" FOR A. RAJA. NOT ONCE WAS I ASKED TO CARRY ANY MESSAGE REGARDING HIM OR ANY OTHER APPOINTMENT.

Anyone who has bothered to read the entire transcript of these conversations instead of just the headline, would notice that the conversation is essentially a journalist soliciting information from one of the many people plugged in - something all journalists do as part of newsgathering. And as journalists, we also often humour our sources without acting on their requests.

The only "benefit" I ever got from talking to Nira Radia was information; information I used to feed the news.

It is important to remember that at this point, in May 2009, none of us were aware of the present investigation against Nira Radia. Like most other journalists in India, I knew Nira Radia professionally as the main PR person for the Tata Group. In this instance, she clearly represented one side of the story. She was just one of many people I spoke to as is typical in such news stories. As journalists we deal with different kinds of people, who sometime solicit information and at other times, provide news leads. Unless we believe in only press-conference driven journalism, the need to tap into what's happening behind-the-scenes in the corridors of power involves dealing with a multitude of voices, and yes, we cannot always vouchsafe for the integrity of all those we use as news sources. We concern ourselves primarily with the accuracy of the information.

But, I must come back to my original objection to what the two magazines have implied. Strangely, when I complained to the editor of Open magazine about the smear campaign against me, he sent me a text saying , there was "not much remarkable" in my conversations and went on to even say that, "there is one bit in the strap where the word go-between is used that I don't like myself." I have to wonder then, with anger, why he did not pause before using such a defamatory description.

Are there learnings in this for me? Yes, of course there are. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight and with what we know now, I realise that when we talk to people who represent or belong to the power establishment, there can be a danger in sailing too close to the wind, even for those of us who are experienced and are driven purely by a deep passion for news.

The takeaway from this debate for me pertains to the everyday practice of journalism. I think of how different kinds of people, who could be potential sources of news, call me, and indeed all editors in this country every day, with different requests ranging from complaints about stories to requests for coverage and yes, sometimes we are also asked to pass on innocuous bits of information. Never have these requests - nor will they - dictate the agenda of my news decisions. But, the calls that we treat with polite friendliness, to keep our channels of news open, clearly need to be handled with more distance. This controversy has made me look at the need to re-draw the lines much more carefully.

There is also another learning. I have always operated by a code of ethics that holds me as accountable to the public as the politicians I grill on my show. The selective and malicious nature of some of the commentary against me has reinforced my awareness of how responsible we ought to be before we level an allegation against another.

While a genuine debate on media ethics is always welcome in the quest for self improvement, I hope this debate will also look at what amounts to character assassination.

Attacks on Nuclear Scientists in Tehran

By Ben West

STRATFOR

"Attacks on Nuclear Scientists in Tehran is republished with permission of STRATFOR."

On the morning of Nov. 29, two Iranian scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear development program were attacked. One was killed, and the other was injured. According to Iranian media, the deceased, Dr. Majid Shahriari, was heading the team responsible for developing the technology to design a nuclear reactor core, and Time magazine referred to him as the highest-ranking non-appointed individual working on the project.

Official reports indicate that Shahriari was killed when assailants on motorcycles attached a “sticky bomb” to his vehicle and detonated it seconds later. However, the Time magazine report says that an explosive device concealed inside the car detonated and killed him. Shahriari’s driver and wife, both of whom were in the car at the time, were injured.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of town, Dr. Fereidoon Abassi was injured in a sticky-bomb attack reportedly identical to the one officials said killed Shahriari. His wife was accompanying him and was also injured (some reports indicate that a driver was also in the car at the time of the attack). Abassi and his wife are said to be in stable condition. Abassi is perhaps even more closely linked to Iran’s nuclear program than Shahriari was, since he was a member of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and was named in a 2007 U.N. resolution that sanctioned high-ranking members of Iran’s defense and military agencies believed to be trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

Monday’s incidents occurred at a time of uncertainty over how global powers and Iran’s neighbors will handle an Iran apparently pursuing nuclear weapons despite its claims of developing only a civilian nuclear program and asserting itself as a regional power in the Middle East. Through economic sanctions that went into effect last year, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany (known as the “P-5+1”) have been pressuring Iran to enter negotiations over its nuclear program and outsource the most sensitive aspects the program, such as higher levels of uranium enrichment.

The Nov. 29 attacks came about a week before Saeed Jalili, Iran’s national security chief, will be leading a delegation to meet with the P-5+1 from Dec. 6-7 in Vienna, the first such meeting in more than a year. The attacks also came within hours of the WikiLeaks release of classified U.S. State Department cables, which are filled with international concerns about Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Because of the international scrutiny and sanctions on just about any hardware required to develop a nuclear program, Iran has focused on developing domestic technologies that can fill the gaps. This has required a national initiative coordinated by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to build the country’s nuclear program from scratch, an endeavor that requires thousands of experts from various fields of the physical sciences as well as the requisite technologies.

And it was the leader of the AEOI, Ali Akhbar Salehi, who told media Nov. 29 that Shahriari was “in charge of one of the great projects” at the agency. Salehi also issued a warning to Iran’s enemies “not to play with fire.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elaborated on the warning, accusing “Zionist” and “Western regimes” of being behind the coordinated attacks against Shahriari and Abassi. The desire of the U.N. Security Council (along with Israel and Germany) to stop Iran’s nuclear program and the apparent involvement of the targeted scientists in that program has led many Iranian officials to quickly blame the United States, United Kingdom and Israel for the attacks, since those countries have been the loudest in condemning Iran for its nuclear ambitions.

It seems that certain domestic rivals of the Iranian regime would also benefit from these attacks. Any one of numerous Iranian militant groups throughout the country may have been involved in one way or another, perhaps with the assistance of a foreign power. A look at the tactics used in the attacks could shed some light on the perpetrators.

Modus Operandi

According to official Iranian reports, Abassi was driving to work at Shahid Beheshti University in northern Tehran from his residence in southern Tehran. When the car in which he and his wife were traveling was on Artash Street, assailants on at least two motorcycles approached the vehicle and attached an improvised explosive device (IED) to the driver’s-side door. The device exploded shortly thereafter, injuring Abassi and his wife.

Images reportedly of Abassi’s vehicle show that the driver’s side door was destroyed, but the rest of the vehicle and the surrounding surfaces show very little damage. A few pockmarks can be seen on the vehicle behind Abassi’s car but little else to indicate that a bomb had gone off in the vicinity. (Earlier reports indicating that this was Shahriari’s vehicle proved erroneous.) This indicates that the IED was a shaped charge with a very specific target. Evidence of both the shaped charge and the utilization of projectiles in the device suggests that the device was put together by a competent and experienced bomb-maker.

An eyewitness account of the attack offers one explanation why the device did not kill Abassi. According to the man who was driving immediately behind Abassi’s car, the car abruptly stopped in traffic, then Abassi got out and went to the passenger side where his wife was sitting. The eyewitness said Abassi and his wife were about 2 meters from the car, on the opposite side when the IED exploded. Abassi appears to have been aware of the attack as it was under way, which apparently saved his life. The eyewitness did not mention whether he saw the motorcyclists attach the device to the car before it went off, but that could have been what tipped Abassi off. If this was the case, the bomb-maker may have done his job well in building the device but the assailants gave themselves away when they planted it.

In the fatal attack against Shahriari, he also was on his way to work at Shahid Beheshti University in northern Tehran in his vehicle with his wife, according to official reports. These reports indicate that he definitely had a driver, which would suggest that Shahriari was considered a person of importance. Their car was traveling through a parking lot in northern Tehran when assailants on at least two motorcycles approached the vehicle and attached an IED to the car. Eyewitnesses say that the IED exploded seconds later and that the motorcyclists escaped. Shahriari was presumably killed in the explosion while his wife and driver were injured.

Terror acts in Iran, a sign of enemies’ carrot and stick policy: official
Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN - Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Director Ali Akbar Salehi has said the recent terrorist attacks in Tehran show that the culprits have adopted a carrot and stick policy in the run-up to the talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), which will be held in Geneva from December 6 to 7.

Salehi made the remarks in Tehran on Wednesday at the funeral ceremony of Professor Majid Shahriari, who was killed in one of the attacks.

On Monday, two prominent physicists were targeted by terrorists in two separate bombings. Professor Majid Shahriari was killed and Professor Fereydoun Abbasi Davani was injured in the attacks. The two academics were both on their way to work at Shahid Beheshti University in northern Tehran when they were attacked. The police say that in both incidents, terrorists riding motorcycles attached magnetic bombs to the physicists’ cars.

On Wednesday, a number of other Iranian officials also condemned the terrorist attacks.

UN Security Council, Zionists are responsible

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that the permanent members of the UN Security Council must be held responsible for the attacks.

“They had named all these scientists in their resolutions as those who have been sanctioned,” Ahmadinejad said in Tehran on Wednesday.

Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, who was wounded in the second bomb attack, was named in UN Security Council Resolution 1747, which was adopted in March 2007.

Ahmadinejad added that the country’s security forces will soon identify the perpetrators of the attacks and the enemies will regret their action after the Iranian nation’s response.

He also stated that if the assassinations continue, “we will bring the permanent members of the UN Security Council to trial, one by one.”

UN Security Council members behind attacks

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili said that UN Security Council member states are responsible for the attacks, adding, “It is a great scandal for the UN Security Council that terrorists implement its resolution.”

Enemies cannot separate people from Islamic establishment

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi stated that the enemies will not be able to separate the Iranian people from the Islamic establishment and velayat-e faqih (rule of the supreme jurisprudent) by launching a soft war against Iran and assassinating its best scientists.

Such moves show the enemies’ desperation in the face of the Iranian nation’s resolve, Vahidi observed.

U.S., Zionists are responsible

First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi also condemned the terrorist acts, saying that the United States and the Zionist regime were behind the attacks.

Iran’s scientific progress will gain momentum

Deputy Majlis Speaker Mohammad Hassan Abutorabifard stated that the assassination of Professor Shahriari will only accelerate the country’s scientific progress.

Enemies have reached an impasse

In his condemnation of the attacks, the director of the Supreme Leader’s Offices at Universities, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadian, said that the fact that Iranian scientists are being assassinated shows that the enemies have reached an impasse.

Assassinations are enemies’ last resort

Former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who is currently the foreign policy advisor of the Supreme Leader, stated that the enemies have done everything in their power to undermine Iran and have failed, so they have resorted to assassinations.

Shahriari was a thorn in the eye of U.S.

Basij Commander Mohammad-Reza Naqdi stated that Professor Shahriari was a “thorn in the eye of the United States” and that is why he was assassinated.

Desperate moves show Israel and its allies are on the decline

Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaii said that Israel and its allies were behind the attacks, but such moves show that they are on the verge of decline.

The official account of the attack is contradicted by the Time magazine report, which cites a “Western intelligence source with knowledge of the operation” as saying that the IED that killed Shahriari detonated from inside the vehicle. Images of what appears to be Shahriari’s vehicle are much poorer quality than the images of Abassi’s vehicle, but they do appear to show damage to the windshield and other car windows. The car is still very much intact, though, and the fact that Shahriari’s driver and wife escaped with only injuries suggests that the device used against Shahriari was also a shaped charge, specifically targeting him.

Capabilities

Attacks like the two carried out against Abassi and Shahriari require a high level of tradecraft that is available only to well-trained operatives. There is much more going on below the surface in attacks like these that is not immediately obvious when reading media reports. First, the team of assailants that attacked Abassi and Shahriari had to identify their targets and confirm that the men they were attacking were indeed high-level scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear program. The fact that Abassi and Shahriari held such high positions indicates they were specifically selected as targets and not the victims of a lucky, opportunistic attack.

Second, the team had to conduct surveillance of the two scientists. The team had to positively identify their vehicles and determine their schedules and routes in order to know when and how to launch their attacks. Both attacks targeted the scientists as they traveled to work, likely a time when they were most vulnerable, an MO commonly used by assassins worldwide.

Third, someone with sufficient expertise had to build IEDs that would kill their targets. Both devices appear to have been relatively small IEDs that were aimed precisely at the scientists, which may have been an attempt to limit collateral damage (their small size may also have been due to efforts to conceal the device). Both devices seem to have been adequate to kill their intended targets, and judging by the damage to his vehicle, it appears that Abassi would have received mortal wounds had he stayed in the driver’s seat.

The deployment stage seems to be where things went wrong for the assailants, at least in the Abassi attack. It is unclear exactly what alerted him, but it appears that he was exercising some level of situational awareness and was able to determine that an attack was under way.

It is not at all surprising that someone like Abassi would have been practicing situational awareness. This is not the first time that scientists linked to Iran’s nuclear program have been attacked, and Iranian agencies linked to the nuclear program have probably issued general security guidance to their employees (especially high-ranking ones like Abassi and Shahriari). In 2007, Ardeshir Hassanpour was killed in an alleged poisoning that STRATFOR sources attributed to an Israeli operation. Again, in January 2010, Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, another Iranian scientist who taught at Tehran University, was killed in an IED attack that also targeted him as he was driving to work in the morning. While some suspected that Ali-Mohammadi may have been targeted by the Iranian regime due to his connections with the opposition, Abassi and Shahriari appear much too close to the regime to be targets of their own government (however, nothing can be ruled out in politically volatile Tehran). The similarities between the Ali-Mohammadi assassination and the attacks against Abassi and Shahriari suggest that a covert campaign to attack Iranian scientists could well be under way.

There is little doubt that the Nov. 29 attacks struck a greater blow to the development of Iran’s nuclear program than the previous two attacks. Shahriari appears to have had an integral role in the program. While he will likely be replaced and work will go on, his death could slow the program’s progress (at least temporarily) and further stoke security fears in Iran’s nuclear development community. The attacks come amid WikiLeaks revelations that Saudi King Abdullah and U.S. officials discussed assassinating Iranian leaders, accusations that the United States or Israel was behind the Stuxnet computer worm that allegedly targeted the computer systems running Iran’s nuclear program and the return home of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian scientist who alleged that the United States held him against his will earlier in the summer.

The evidence suggests that foreign powers are actively trying to probe and sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. However, doing so is not that simple. Tehran is not nearly as open a city as Dubai, where Israeli operatives are suspected of assassinating a high-level Hamas leader in January 2010. It is unlikely that the United States, Israel or any other foreign power could deploy its own team of assassins into Tehran to carry out a lengthy targeting, surveillance and attack operation without some on-the-ground help.

And there is certainly plenty of help on the ground in Iran. Kurdish militants like the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan have conducted numerous assassinations against Iranian clerics and officials in Iran’s western province of Kordestan. Sunni separatist militants in the southeast province of Sistan-Balochistan, represented by the group Jundallah, have also targeted Iranian interests in eastern Iran in recent years. Other regional militant opposition groups like Mujahideen-e Khalq, which has offered intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program to the United States, and Azeri separatists pose marginal threats to the Iranian regime. However, none of these groups has demonstrated the ability to strike such high-level officials in the heart of Tehran with such a degree of professionalism. While that is unlikely, they have the capability and a history of eliminating dissidents through assassinations. Furthermore, the spuriousness of many contradictory media reports makes the attacks suspicious.

It is unlikely that any foreign power was able to conduct this operation by itself and equally unlikely that any indigenous militant group was able to pull off an attack like this without some assistance. The combination of the two, however, could provide an explanation of how the attacks targeting Shariari and Abassi got so close to complete success.



Read more: Attacks on Nuclear Scientists in Tehran | STRATFOR

November 30, 2010

INTERVIEW: Iran in Africa

Iranian Diplomacy


Africa a Lost Cause without a Road Map

Interview with Javid Ghorban-Oghli

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made a short tour to the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Togo last week. In his visits, Mottaki underscored Africa’s upgraded importance in Iranian diplomacy, and inked a number of economic agreements with African officials. But Javid Ghorban-Oghli, Iran’s former ambassador to Algeria and South Africa, is not so optimistic about the achievements of Mottaki’s visit to West Africa. In an interview with Iranian Diplomacy, he elaborates his arguments:

IRD: What is your impression of Manouchehr Mottaki’s recent visit to West Africa?

JQO: There is no doubt that Africa needs more attention in our diplomacy. Previous administrations were also aware of this necessity, and they had dedicated particular attention to Africa. But the important point is that we need a clear plan to achieve our goals, whether they are economic or diplomatic. On-and-off efforts in recent years have imposed a heavy price on our country, and compared with the Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami administrations, the achievements have been much less in Ahmadinejad’s government.

For instance, look at the Iran-Africa Forum held in September in Tehran, where leaders of secondary African states were invited to Iran. I’m not sure if any related efforts followed the forum, or at least we have not been informed about it.

The timing and schedule of Mottaki’s visit is also questionable. He visited four countries in five days. What could his economic delegation and the private sector representatives achieve in this short time? It is extremely unlikely that they could have signed any contracts within a few hours. Negotiations on economic issues require at least a couple of days of talks.

IRD: Could Iran realize any economic potential in these countries?

JQO: I don’t think so. As I said, they are second-rank countries in Africa, and economic partnerships with them will have the least impact on our economic affairs. Mottaki’s visit was justifiable if it was for political goals, but I do not think these countries can even command a five-percent share of our total trade exchange. The point is that if economic contracts were the basic goal, there was no need for an official of Manouchehr Mottaki’s rank to visit these West African countries. Even trade exchanges with Ghana, Iran’s closest economic partner in West Africa, are limited to the import of cocoa nuts.

IRD: After returning from his African visit, Manouchehr Mottaki has said that Iran-Africa trade volume is now a multi-billion dollar business. Which specific activities have possibly increased the trade volume to this level?

JQO: The foreign minister should be more careful about the words he uses. Ambiguous remarks are the trend that started since the Ninth Administration [Ahmadinejad’s first term] and they are not of course exclusive to Mottaki. The total trade volume—import and export—with West Africa is less than half a billion dollars. This is of course without considering oil exports, which as the government itself has defined, are not included in the statistics of our trade activities.

IRD: Is Iran’s economic cooperation within Africa economically justifiable?

JQO: It is. Africa is a highly lucrative business, if only we know how to capitalize on it. But we need a clear road map. All administrations have, of course, failed to develop this map. We have not been successful in encouraging our entrepreneurs to invest in this region. The majority of investments have been carried out by the government, like the Samand auto manufacturing factory in Senegal, which started during Khatami’s presidency and came into operation during Ahmadinejad’s term.

IRD: What is Iran’s Africa strategy? Helping these countries to develop through donations, or operating profitable economic activities?

JQO: Our policy has been donation-oriented to date. That is not of course a problem and Iran might help these countries in order to expand its sphere of influence. Our donations have been fruitful, but investment needs further attention.

IRD: What were Mottaki’s political goals by these visits?

JQO: In his capacity, Mottaki can visit all countries for diplomatic negotiations and to advance Iran’s diplomatic goals. The foreign ministers of these countries have visited Iran, so Mottaki’s reciprocal visits are not unusual. We also need these countries’ support in the United Nations and other international organizations. The international community is not restricted to a few countries. And Mottaki didn’t need to obscure his political objectives in visiting West Africa.


7 Sunday November 2010 0:16

Iran: Surge in Cases of Husband Murder

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/ISN-Insights/Detail?lng=en&id=124619&contextid734=124619&contextid735=124611&tabid=124611


More and more women are being convicted of a once unheard-of crime in Iran: killing their husbands.

By Saba Vasefi for IWPR

Courtside stories about wives accused of murdering their husbands were once almost unheard of in Iran, but these days they are common enough to excite little attention.

In the last decade, the number of women accused of the crime has surged.

One ongoing case involves a woman accused of strangling her husband with a motorcycle chain. Making her eighth court appearance on November 10, the defendant, who has been named in court only as Leila, continues to insist she is innocent and says her husband committed suicide. Her daughter testified against her.

"Mariticide as a commonplace crime is a recent phenomenon in Iran," a local lawyer who wanted to remain anonymous said. "I can scarcely recall any cases of this kind occurring 30 or even 20 years ago."

Precise statistics are hard to come by but Samira Kalohr, a social studies researcher who reviewed cases reported in the news in 2007 found that 22 per cent of murders committed within the family involved women killing their husbands, and 27 per cent were men who killed their wives.

Kalohr's figures did not include murders of men where the wife was implicated as an accomplice - quite a common phenomenon in such cases.

Shahla Moazzami and Mohammad Ashouri, professors at Tehran University who carried out a rare study of the issue, found that when husbands were murdered, only a third of the crimes were committed by the wife herself, and the rest involved a third party acting on her behalf. Often these were men involved in illicit relationships with the wives.

Mostafa Rajabi, deputy head of criminal investigations in the Iranian police, has said the proportion of murders that occurred within the family in 2009 was 33 per cent of the total. Figures from 1989 indicated that this kind of crime accounted for 16 per cent of the total that year.

Ashouri, who is head of the Criminology and Forensics Research Institute at Tehran University, told the Hamshahri daily, "The percentage of crimes committed by women is low in Iran, but unfortunately the figures for mariticide are high."

This is a significant shift in Iranian society, where murders involving spouses have in the past almost always involved men killing women, often in what is known as an "honour crime".

Article 630 of Iran's Islam-based criminal code makes it legal for a man to kill both his wife and her partner if he finds them in the act, and it is consensual. In reality, this standard of proof is rarely met and "honour killings" are often committed out of jealousy, suspicion or merely as a way of ending a marriage.

In the case of wives who kill their husbands, the available research indicates that two-thirds of cases are motivated by a desire for revenge for the husband being unfaithful.

The survey that Moazzami and Ashouri conducted across 15 provinces of Iran showed that in 58 per cent of cases, the women had been unable to get a divorce because their husbands or families would not agree to it, or had children and would have had no means of supporting themselves if they had separated from their spouses.

My own research indicates that many women who resort to violence are themselves victims of abuse, and have been unable to find justice through the legal system.

For many years, women's rights activists in Iran have been calling on the government to establish shelters for women who fall victim to violence. The authorities have so far refused to accede to this, citing Islamic laws that state it is wrong for a woman to leave home without her husband's permission.

Many of the women who commit mariticide fit the same profile - they commonly live on the impoverished outskirts of major cities; they are housewives and do not have a high school diploma; they were forced into marriage at an early age and may be much younger than their husbands. This combination of factors means they are less able than most to find other ways out of the situations they are in, and turn to murder as a last act of desperation.

Such murders are often carried out with unusual brutality.

Behjat Karimzadeh, who is currently awaiting sentencing in Karaj's Rajayi Shahr Prison for killing her husband together with an accomplice.

"I strangled my husband, and then I looked at him and I was scared he might not be dead, so I cut off his head with a knife," she told me.

Another convict, Fatemeh, speaking after ten years in Shiraz's Adelabad prison, said, "After giving my husband poison, I cut off his hands. He broke my nose with those hands."

Fatemeh has won a stay of execution because her husband's family gave consent for clemency, with no need for monetary compansation.

My interviews with ten women in Tehran's Evin prison and the Rajayi Shahr jail indicated that all the murders involved premeditation. Nine of the ten did not regret killing their husbands, and eight considered themselves innocent.

Moazzami's survey similarly showed that men tended to regret murder more than women in equivalent cases.

"After committing an act resulting in murder, the majority of men take their spouses to hospital and attempt to save them. And more than a quarter of the men in prison for wife-killing turned themselves into the police," she said. "Women, however, see themselves as innocent afterwards, and will not confess to murder even after years of incarceration."

The case of Akram Mahdavi the phenomenon of women who seek a male accomplice to carry out the murder - in sharp contrast to men, who are generally the sole perpetrators.

Mahdavi, now in the Rajayi Shahr prison, grew up in a poor family and was forced to marry her cousin when she was just 13. She divorced him after discovering that he had taken a second wife, but her father forced her into another marriage when she was 20, this time to a 75-year-old antique dealer.

She says she tried and failed to secure a divorce after finding out that her husband was sexually abusing her young daughter. Then she started looking for an accomplice, and found a man willing to carry out the murder.

At present, the death sentence against Mahdavi is suspended pending payment of "blood money", the compensation that a murder victim's relatives can be paid if they so choose. A group of rights activists were able to get one of her husband's close relatives to agree to compensation. If other relatives disagree, they can pay the percentage due to the person who gave consent, and overturn the act of clemency.

The judicial process is marred by gender inequalities. For example, blood money payable for a woman is half that for a murdered man, meaning that husbands are more likely to be able to come up with the compensation funds than women are. (SeeIran: High Price of Flouting Marriage Rules .)

Another significant difference is that wives convicted of murder are shunned by their own relatives and receive no prison visits. Mahdavi was being taken to the gallows just before a last-minute stay of execution was ordered. She said, "I will never forget that my family didn't even come to see my sentence carried out."


Saba Vasefi is a women’s and children’s rights activist from Iran, now living in Sydney, Australia. Her documentary “Do Not Bury My Heart” on executing minors in Iran was recently screened in the underground documentary section in the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival.

Editor's note:

To view the original article, click here.